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Transnational Children Orchestrating Competing Voices in Multimodal, Digital Autobiographies


by Jessica Zacher Pandya, Kathleah Consul Pagdilao, Aeloch Enok Kim & Elizabeth Marquez — 2015

Background/Context: Prior research on multimodal, digital composition has highlighted the need for educators to bring such practices into classrooms, yet little research has been done to show what kinds of products children create and what those products can tell us as researchers about how children articulate their life experiences. We draw on recent theorizations of transnationalism in relation to immigrant children’s school experiences, and Bakhtinian perspectives on language and ideology, to frame our analysis of the identity work that transnational and immigrant children undertook in the multimodal, digital composition projects we analyze.

Purpose/Objective: We analyzed 18 digital videos made by transnational children aged 8–10, asking what the key features of their narratives told us about what they found important in their lives, what voices were orchestrated in the composition of those narratives, and what voices were omitted. We also asked what students’ narratives told us about who they were and wanted to be, as immigrants or children of immigrants. Finally, we asked what these features and omissions suggested about perspectives on their immigration experiences and current lives.

Research Design: These data come from an ongoing, design-based research project. Qualitative methods were employed, including: interviews with and surveys of children and teachers at various stages of the video production process; collection of children’s written work; collection of children’s videos; and the writing of field notes and analytic memos.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Asking children to write about themselves for teachers, peers, and parents meant asking them to orchestrate multiple voices into potentially contradiction-ridden, yet coherent stories. Our work so far suggests that, at the least, we should expect children to try out new identities, and seek new ways of orchestrating the voices in their lives into a coherent whole. We caution researchers and teachers who work with immigrant youth not to assume that immigration will necessarily be a pivotal moment, or even a central or important moment, to children. We also caution that children may not feel that their school is a safe place to talk about such issues; offering the space is all we can do. The kinds of composition we have described exceed the narrative writing and speaking and listening demands of the Common Core State Standards. Teachers should be aware of the ways multimodal, digital composition can help meet their immigrant students’ self-authoring needs and surpass the demands of the new standards. Finally, to connect with others, to become more aware of one’s place(s) in an increasingly globalized world, and to orchestrate competing voices—these are the potentials for multimodal, digital composition with immigrant youth to which we continue to aspire.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 7, 2015, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17946, Date Accessed: 7/21/2017 10:50:16 PM

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About the Author
  • Jessica Pandya
    California State University, Long Beach
    E-mail Author
    JESSICA ZACHER PANDYA is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education and Liberal Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include literacy, urban education, language learning, and multimodality. In addition to having published articles in Review of Research in Education, Research in the Teaching of English, and Language Arts, Pandya is the author of Overtested: How High-Stakes Accountability Fails English Language Learners” (Teachers College Press, 2011). She is co-editor of Critical Digital Literacies as Social Praxis: Intersections and Challenges (Peter Lang, 2012) and Moving Critical Literacies Forward: A New Look at Praxis Across Contexts (Routledge, 2014).
  • Kathleah Pagdilao
    California State University, Long Beach
    E-mail Author
    KATHLEAH CONSUL PAGDILAO is an MA student in the Social and Cultural Analysis of Education (SCAE) Program at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include identity development, experiences of Pilipino Americans, and teacher education. She hopes to teach in an elementary education setting after completing her graduate program.
  • Aeloch Enok Kim
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    AELOCH ENOK KIM is a Master of Arts student at Teachers College, Columbia University studying Instructional Technology and Media. He is an educational technology professional with experience in media production and edtech research. His interests include gamification in education and use of web and mobile platforms for education.
  • Elizabeth Marquez
    California State University, Long Beach
    E-mail Author
    ELIZABETH MARQUEZ holds a B.A. in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Human Behavior from California State University, Long Beach. She is currently pursuing the field of Speech-Language Pathology. Her interests include critical literacy, language development, and communication disorders.
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